Stuffed Peppers…

4999EA0F-E943-4858-BCF6-0BDF3A460741Southerners love their peppers, most tuck at least a few plants in their gardens even if it’s in among flower beds. Peppers generally love the Southern climate- some old timers say the hotter the weather- the hotter the peppers! I’m not sure about that, I do know that we once planted mild banana peppers close to jalapenos and those highly prized for their pepper sauce- long skinny cayenne pepper pods; well, I’m telling you those sweet banana peppers were hot as fire! I loved them. Usually our Bell Peppers are small, mainly good in salads or chopped along with onions and celery for our trinity to begin making jambalayas, gumbos, even tomato sauces.

f6e4696a-57d5-4cd7-86fe-525312f45f27.jpegThis year we planted a few plants of Poblano peppers- they’ve been seriously good and a bumper crop of the big beautiful peppers are just the right size for Stuffed Peppers. I’ve eaten stuffed peppers all of my life and loved them.  I have to admit- Before I learned to cook stuffed peppers- I tended to think they were an exotic dish because southern cooks which can be on the eccentric side, had a way  of  majestically saying… ‘Ah’m makin’ Stuffed Peppers’…   it just seemed like a special treat and -they truly are. Now, let me get real here- if something sits still long enough a southern cook will figure out a way to stuff it!

  • Stuffed Eggs, Stuffed  Shrimp, Stuffed Pork Chops even Stuffed Squash Blossoms- now that’s an adventure!

I’m running on and on- though I do want you to know, it’s not hard to make Stuffed Peppers.  The beauty of this dish is, of course presentation and taste- Still. Feel free to stuff a few or enough to feed a crowd, which we all know is the real beauty of any recipe.  Cook Stuffed Peppers right away or prepare, seal and freeze. Stuffed peppers always call for good ingredients- but the real secret to cooking stuffed peppers is the same for meatloaf- I think… low and slow. If you don’t have time, I’d say don’t make them! Okay, still there might be a way to overcome this.  If you have an oven with a timer- it is possible to take stuffed peppers from the freezer, put them in the oven, set the timer  and heat at 325 degrees allow for 2 hours before your meal and you might get away with it. So here’s how to make –

Camellia’s Stuffed Peppers

  • You will need Unblemished fresh and clean – 4-5 large Bell or Poblano Peppers   – carefully cut peppers in half, Remove seeds and membranes without damaging the pepper halves. *I think Stuffed Peppers make a wonderful presentation if the stem portion remains intact on at least one half and also keep the filling intact.
  • For the Filling you will need: 1-1/4 pounds of ground chuck mixed with diced onion, 3/4 cup of crushed saltine crackers, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and a pinch or two of black pepper-you may use bread crumbs, instead of crushed crackers- if so- add a pinch of salt. If you dare and I do! add 1/2 teaspoon or more of red pepper flakes and one beaten large egg.
  • *Note: some folks add small diced celery and even carrots- I do not. The mixture will be moistened by the pepper shell, therefore it doesn’t need the extra moisture.
  • Carefully combine ground beef mixture. Do not overwork the filling.
  • To stuff: Each pepper half will use approximately 3/4 cup of filling spooned in and pressed down a bit.   *Optional: I had some fresh oven roasted tomatoes preserved in oil- so I drained them and topped the uncooked stuffing. *You may wrap tightly and freeze at this point. C7F89F23-89C9-4A9A-80A0-9139EF8EBBB3
  • This is not optional: Cut uncooked bacon into one inch pieces topping each stuffed pepper with 1-2 small pieces.
  • Now, this is important! Before baking- preheat oven to 325 degrees. Very low oven temperature is key.
  • Top each Stuffed Pepper with a generous amount of good ketchup. Bake low and slow- mine were done in 2 hours.
  • Allow to stand a few minutes, then skim off fat and juices. Serve. Makes 4-5 generous servings, allowing 2 pepper halves each.

It’s actually wonderful to serve Stuffed Peppers on a buffet- they taste good even at room temperature. I also think Stuffed Peppers can be changed up with different spices- such as an Italian mixture served simply with garlic bread and a green salad. If you have the patience, stuffing Baby Bell Peppers would be wonderful appetizers. Of course, one of my favorite combinations for Stuffed Peppers includes the Three Sisters – Corn, Beans and Squash. Corn supports the Bean vines, Squash are planted at the base in a ring around the corn- each has a purpose. Comically and practically- prickly squash leaves deter varmints like raccoons since they don’t like stepping on the leaves. Native Americans taught us how to companion plant these ‘three sisters’  which are a wonderful combination of sides for Stuffed Peppers.

 

Since the weather is still very warm here- I chose to make cool Shoe Peg Corn Salad, a cheesy Squash Casserole and Speckled Butterbeans cooked with bacon drippings, a bit of hot vinegar-y pepper sauce and crumbled bacon on top.

In the winter, Stuffed Peppers are so good cooked amid a bed of shredded cabbage and onions- of course cornbread and dried beans  are also so good. Now, before I leave the fresh vegetable sides, I’d say there’s almost nothing as satisfying as shucking fresh corn, picking fresh summer squash and shelling butterbeans… Well okay- unless it’s feeding your loved ones a meal  like this.

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.

Blue Ridge Apple Cake…

7ECB0501-3C50-43AC-B545-D905918E6B0EIt might come as a surprise that the Appalachian Region is apple growing country. Settlers from Scotch Irish descent brought apple seeds with them to grow in the new land… with the help of Cherokee Indians apples became widely grown. With temperatures dipping into the 20s and highs in the 80s – the plateaus produce apples from late July on into late fall. Some heirloom varieties grown in the Appalachians are still considered excellent. My home county is at the tail end of the Appalachians and almost all old home places had at least one or two apple trees, it was encouraged as a way to make property more valuable and of course as an extra food source! The uses for apples is legion, from-

  • Feeding livestock (especially our beloved pork!),
  • Jams and jellies, brandies and butters,
  • Pies and cakes, stuffed and baked or tucked around a pork roast,
  • Dried for use in the famous mountain Apple Stack cake, a simple pan of Fried apples and one of my personal favorites- Fried Apple Pies.
  • And of course, as an afternoon snack!D295386C-0568-431E-915C-0729DD474408

The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, in the southern part of the Appalachian Region, is one of those apple growing regions. In the upper western corner of Georgia, the entire area is a popular tourist attraction and apple picking territory. Beginning to ripen now, a few days ago, I bought some Blue Ridge Apples; I was especially glad to find these. The skins aren’t tough and thick, this current crop of apples aren’t overly sweet, have good texture and are a beautiful deep red- just perfect for a quick breakfast, a lunchbox treat or an afternoon snack.

Fresh Apple Cakes are legendary in the South, the mere mention of one is followed by swoons. Any southerner I know loves a snack of apples and peanut butter; a nutritious lunch for almost any school kid is a peanut butter sandwich and an apple!  I couldn’t resist coming up with an easy apple cake- snack size with the addition of peanut butter…well, let’s just say I surprised myself! These Blue Ridge apples don’t even require peeling, the whole cake can be made from common pantry ingredients and from start to finish, in about an hour, including bake time, you’ll have a Blue Ridge Apple Cake!

7ECB0501-3C50-43AC-B545-D905918E6B0EHere’s how you make-

Camellia’s Blue Ridge Apple Cake

You will need:

  • 2 cups of Flour
  • 2 cups of Brown Sugar (firmly packed plus more for topping)
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 stick of chilled Butter cut in small pieces
  • 1/2 cup of Creamy Peanut Butter (plus more for topping)
  • 1 cup of diced apples (Blue Ridge if possible) plus more (thinly sliced) for topping
  • 1 carton Sour Cream (8 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1 Large Egg lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut in small pieces of Butter until crumbly. Add Apples and Peanut Butter- this mixture will continue to be crumbled in texture. E965B79B-25D5-45C4-B348-E0DFEA7838FB

Press half of the mixture in the bottom of a glass baking dish (9×9) as you would for a crust. Combine baking soda and sour cream. Mix well. Add in the slightly beaten egg. Add this mixture of sour cream/baking soda and egg into the remaining crumb mixture. Stir gently to combine. Pour this mixture over the top of pressed crumbs. Decorate the top of mixture with thinly sliced apples. Sprinkle additional cinnamon and brown sugar. Put small dollops of extra peanut butter on some of the decorative apple slices. Here’s how it comes together-

*Variation: Add a sprinkling of chopped peanuts if you want to guild the apples! Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Cool then, cut into squares.

Yield one nine inch square coffee cake- approximately 9-12 luscious squares.

I know I said to cool the cake, but it is very good slightly warm! Cover tightly. Blue Ridge Apple Cake keeps very well,  and retains it’s moisture. The Appalachian region continues to be one of the poorest regions in our nation, it is wonderful to be able to support the farmers there in such a delicious way!  And… Alabama is a state where George Washington Carver’s research has provided many folks, like me! with a love of parched peanuts, roasted peanuts and oh yes! Peanut Butter! Blue Ridge Apple Cake seems like a match made in heaven with the combination of Apples and Peanut Butter!A406F262-7E0F-4C7D-9EA5-7BCB288C33DA

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine! September 14 is also National Peanut Day! You have permission to eat all the peanuts you want!9805E26D-6241-459B-8DEE-F5B1A2AFBBA0

Volunteers…

29723B1F-8E89-4C24-995D-EDDE1D6748BAWhen a plant springs up in a garden unbidden- not planted by the gardener… the plant is called a volunteer. The garlic chives in the front garden here at Camellia’s Cottage weren’t planted by us; they volunteered… added their services, their talents and their beautiful blooms, then drop seeds to give us another round in the coming years.

17DD5B08-EEBE-47C2-AA39-A87A1DC61DAFOn this date commemorating a Day of National Tragedy, 9/11 was also proclaimed in 2009 as a National Day of Service- to promote volunteering; a date when, as we Americans are mourning we are also encouraged to volunteer. In addition to the courageous and trained first responders, on that tragic day- volunteers came out in droves and used their talents lavishly.

I have found folks who volunteer regularly aren’t just the ones with extra time on their hands- no, many are some of the busiest most successful people I’ve ever known. Volunteers seem to wake up determined not to be mediocre; they regularly ask- ‘What can I do for my country, my city, my neighborhood today?’ They use their talents and skills generously, like the garlic chives. 9083E24B-D7B1-470C-8CB0-B60206ECF8F0

It doesn’t really take a whole lot of effort to regularly do at least one positive thing to make our world better… a kind word, a tender gesture and yes, even taking a casserole.

Garlic Chives are a culinary herb, the leaves have a subtle garlic flavor, the blossoms produce dark seeds which can be toasted and then ground like a specialty garlicky pepper. Every year, I vow to remove them…and then they volunteer to bloom just when everything else has just about given up.

Let’s not give up on doing good- let’s commemorate the lives lost- then do what we can to make our world a better place.

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine. And yes, I am rendering a small act of service for my local library today.

Nerves…

D0F39752-CB7D-4458-A05A-D49D5B63887D

She was the nervous type, always scared to death of something or other, I tell you she was no Grace Kelly, Her Serene Highness of Monaco.  An old timer said of her nervous condition, ‘You can always hear a chicken’s feathers ruffle. Scared of her own shadow.’  I rifled through my notes and found that Southern folks talk about their nerves– a lot. Here’s a sample.

  • ‘I was nervous as a cat.’  I have to admit most cats I know don’t exactly quiver like nervous ninnies. They nap a lot. I have known a few cats- a very few- who get on my last nerve. That goes for other things or people too.
  • Some folks say- ‘My nerves were bad that day.’ or… ‘I was a bundle of nerves!’  even this…
  • ‘That noise is working on my nervous system.’ or if it’s really bad- ‘I felt like I was about to have a complete nervous breakdown.’
  • Or nervous exhaustion- ‘ I can’t sleep. I’ve worried myself to death’.
  • ‘My nerves are shot, I tell you they were almost completely gone. If someone tells you I’m Koo Koo for Cocoa Pops. Believe them’

You don’t hear about nerves much these days….oh maybe something like ‘Nerves of Steel’…Mostly, we hear about Stress, Anxiety or other disorders which are all real and can be serious conditions… the terms and treatments have changed. I’m guessing, for lack of a better way to describe things, our Southern Mothers tended to blame the nervous system for the unexplainable. It’s sort of shame terms change like they do. A case of ‘Nerves’ was one size fits all- a delicate way of putting things.  If there is one thing Southern folks used to excel at- is putting things in a more genteel format. The South is a region of church steeples, azaleas, Dollar Trees and eccentricity.

817EB075-9980-49F3-AA90-364003142014For instance, even when we suspect someone is acting in an unusual way….  ‘We always felt a little bit sorry for her- she was a shy soul who had fallen arches, varicose veins, thick ankles and- kept her venetians closed tight as a tick. Most folks suspected her nerves were bad or that she might be a closet drinker. But nice, let me tell you- you will never meet a nicer person in the world, a little unkempt, bless her heart- but so nice.’ Yes, that’s the Southern way of putting things. If we suspect someone might be going over the edge- well… there are telltale signs…

7B5D1FF2-B9DC-4998-8021-BCA16E4D9C16‘Most folks plant petunias in an old tire, but Emma’s been working herself to death- she’s got a whole tire garden – whitewashed or white walled tires with a bottle tree slap dab in the middle or it- I think she’s just got nervous energy that needs workin’ off- One of the neighbors said they thought they heard incantations at night around the bottle tree- but I think it was just those bottles rattling when the wind got up. So what if she planted a tire garden anyway? It’s better than keeping things all bottled up or falling out with a case of bad nerves.’

FFBFBD55-3F11-4FEE-9936-5BC1B6892790And there’s this- naturally some folks do get nervous when they have to get up at meeting to make a little talk, their hands sweat and quiver-One suffering man said…‘I’m so nervous, I could thread a sewing machine and it going.’  Nerve wracking.

3615C552-C99B-44A7-88CD-7CDC0BD9EE6FAll women worry about their children; if they will they make it all right when they get grown but some Southern women worry about whether or not theirs will rise above sorry circumstances– one woman said the houses she grew up in smelled of chlorine bleach, steamed cabbage and home permanents. She wondered if her daughters would rise above it– they did. One has her own Happy Housecleaning Service and the other is a Beauty Operator.

Now, it must be said- that often Southern Mothers are simply mortified by person’s behavior, it sets their nerves on edge. It’s imperative to point things out to their children-

‘Don’t be hanging out over there. Her mama’s not right…mental. Goes to juke joints on Saturday nights. Some say it’s her nerves…but really! layin’ out at night and then layin’ out in the yard in broad daylight to even out her tan. I tell you she’s on the verge…or maybe she’s already gone cuckoo- a genuine floozie. Why, it’s beneath her. Some folks try to excuse it away by saying she was an army nurse in the South Pacific for 15 years and never adjusted to civilian life. The nerve! honestly. I tell you now, it’s no place for young folks to gather. You just need to politely decline any invitations from them and their loud mouthed neighbors too.’

781CACEF-A11C-4645-B3AF-F99391EAEC5DAnd then there’s the case of Aunt Freezia Butler… she’d always been a bundle of nerves, she was high strung when she was a young girl. As a grown woman, Aunt Freezia suffered from tension headaches, nervous stomach, had occasional bouts of Saint Vidas Dance and knew the heartbreak of psoriasis. Aunt Freezia was a buttoned up type, had a tight perm to match; mostly she didn’t trust doctors. Still.  Freezia was a spiritual type – Hard shell Baptist. She claimed it was biblical to take a nip for her oft infirmities according to St. Paul. So she kept a bottle of spirits in her chifforobe ‘for medicinal purposes only’ said it settled her nerves. It probably did.

06FB0CC4-D75D-4F33-A2E5-EF0584686C28A final warning, beware of the wilting Southern Beauty Queen who has gotten to the age when her mind has started to wander… she will offer her delicate and limp hand like a fading gardenia, then takes to her bed with a rare case of Magnolia Fever. Watch out for this type.  Her nervous spells will run you to death- waiting on her hand and foot. Do everything- only to watch her turn on you… mean as a snake! Then! this old Beauty will have the nerve to blame it on a tension headache; says she is declining rapidly- knows the end is near- makes elaborate funeral plans and final wishes. Southerners fall for this- Every. Single. Time.

Okay. ‘Pull the velvet drapes, please. I think a bad case of nerves is coming on… I need to collect myself. There. I’m back to being the Serene Highness of the South.’

C90CCD7E-E08B-4B96-9412-1E13DCCF0540Now, you know the secret of my crazy writing habits- it’s keeping notes…in no particular order, of amusing or unusual phrases or words- then it’s like pulling a rabbit out of the magician’s hat. Some time, somewhere when I least expect it- all of those reams of random paper bring on a goofy piece of writing designed to amuse and inform. This one- for instance- is like all Southern tales… part truth, part myth and part outright lies.  And, you have to admit- it took a lot of nerve to write it!

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is meant to be a humor piece. I have the utmost sympathy for anyone who suffers from any type of nervous disorder and am thankful we have better ways to address it medically. *All photographs are obviously mine. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.  *This is the truth and the whole truth- I have come up with no word for a collector of words and phrases- this photograph is just a fraction of the crazy notes I keep! *And one more thing- we were asked back in the Spring by Z Publishing – to submit an article from a previously published piece of writing. We chose one from Camellia’s Cottage entitled- Bevy of Beauties. We were astounded and grateful to have been chosen and included in Alabama's Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction

Summer Tomato Soup…

50632F59-3858-4D93-ACDC-D6A0A853B8DDShe wore a brown apron with yellow rickrack over a flowered summer house dress- ready to go to work Labor Day weekend- canning tomatoes, putting up colorful soup mix and I don’t know what all. What I do recall is being given the job of sitting in a chair by a small table where the canning jars were cooling- we’d tightened the lids, my job was to sit and listen to the jars until the telltale ping of the lids signaled the canning was successful, the lids had sealed! There were just a few duds that had to go back into the canner for another round. About half of the work had been done ahead of the actual tomato canning….Several bushels of Chandler Mountain Tomatoes had been bought at the Farmer’s Market, skinned outside the night before- the portable television had been dragged outside trailing a 100 foot extension cord and set up under the Mimosa Tree. Someone always took the job of hitting the Mimosa with a broom to quiet down the katydids so we could watch Huntley Brinkley, I Love Lucy and the Ed Sullivan shows, especially  on nights it was too hot to sit inside.  I have to note that ‘It’s too hot’ was a frequent refrain in those days before central air conditioning basically ruined most of the natural social life of neighborhoods. Everywhere, in summertime- these things were conversation starters…

  • ‘It’s too hot to cook’
  • ‘It’s too hot to think!’
  • ‘It’s so hot, I couldn’t drag myself to the mailbox until after sundown.’
  • ‘Don’t be ripping and running- it’s too hot.’
  • ‘Stop dawdling, it’s too hot.’
  • And my personal favorite, heard from sleeping porches screened or open- an assortment of castoff half  beds lined up with a hodge podge of threadbare sheets and pillowcases…always moans and murmurs of ‘I can’t sleep! It’s too hot!’

Anyway, the humidity and heat is still suffocating and it’s almost too hot to cook when summertime sizzles in August on into early September… Still.  Let us have an unexpected thunderstorm when the clouds have hung thick for days – our hearts will turn to our beloved homegrown tomatoes and a bowl of soup.  Yes, even when it’s burning hot, we can’t  resist eating a bowl of soup made from the tag ends of the garden’s gifts with saltine crackers, soft bread or even a pone of cornbread.  I know I do.  A bowl of garden fresh soup is especially good on a rainy day! Here’s how I make my favorite tomato soup with a summertime twist!6509539F-1959-43E7-8286-97AFA03A7A2A

Camellia’s Summer Tomato Soup

  • You will need 8- 10 medium summer tomatoes- please use the freshest possible! Core and quarter tomatoes for the soup. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, fry 3-4 slices of Bacon in the bottom of a large deep pot – remove bacon and drain. Reserve drippings in the pot.
  • Slice one sweet yellow onion. Saute on medium high heat in reserved bacon drippings until opaque-
  • Add 1 Tablespoon of chopped garlic being careful not to scorch.
  •  Add quartered tomatoes to the onions and garlic.
  • Season the tomatoes, onions, garlic with 1 Tablespoon of dried Basil, 1 teaspoon of crushed Red Pepper Flakes and Salt and fresh Cracked Pepper to taste.
  • Add 1 3/4 cup of chicken broth (homemade if possible, if not use the best broth you can find)
  • Bring broth and tomatoes to a good simmer.
  • Add a glug of white wine (a Tablespoon or two) and the same amount of Half and Half to enrich the soup. (Tip- if you don’t have any half and half- a good substitute and one I use to enrich and thicken some sauces and even salad dressings! Add  2-3 Tablespoons of that ‘powdered’ Parmesan Cheese- in fact, this is about the only reason to ever buy it!)DA97D489-2AC6-44F0-BCE8-471F46E0C4C1
  • Heat Summer Tomato Soup on medium low heat to a gentle bubble covered for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. *If you don’t like the tomato skins, feel free to remove them! The heat causes the skins to slip right off!
  • *I like the soup to be on the rustic side but I have been known to take a potato masher and sort of half heartedly smash the tomatoes- I also have put this soup through a strainer for a more elegant presentation- but this step isn’t necessary.
  • Ladle soup into generous soup bowls. Crumble Bacon on top of the soup.
  • Makes 3 generous servings. Feel free to double the recipe! Serve with oyster crackers, saltine crackers or even garlic bread sticks!

A368933F-6FFC-45B6-A7E5-BBAA8FC1B29FOf course the soup is good on it’s own, but it’s the Toppings that make the soup really special! Here are my favorites- Of course Bacon, Bacon, Bacon! But a good Diced Ham is also good. I shred some Mozzarella, Sharp Cheddar cheese,  Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina or Swiss- even a mix of your favorite cheeses is wonderful, topped with a sprinkle of extra red pepper flakes! And finally, this topper completely makes it a Summer Tomato Soup- finely sliced Cucumbers and Sweet Onions (do this on the slicer side of a box grater) put in a container and gently douse with wine vinegar- toss to coat, then chill.7693da32-87ce-4b99-a107-401c2ebc4fa9.jpeg

This cucumber mixture is also good on a mixed green salad as well, so make lots! For Summer Tomato Soup, the chilled cucumbers cool the soup down and just make it taste… well, summery! Southerners do eat warm soups, gumbos, low country boils and seafood stews in summer – the theory is: Warm up your insides and you’ll feel cooler on the outside! Summer Tomato Soup isn’t a heavy soup, it’s a light and quick meal when it’s just too hot to cook!  Now, I have to tell you, Summer Tomato Soup is great all year round- I’ve made it by substituting two 14.5 oz. cans of tomatoes and upped the seasonings a bit- I do change up the toppings, always using the bacon and cheese- maybe adding a dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions; almost always if I’m making it any other time of year…it must have cornbread!  Now, I don’t have a flowered house dress or a brown apron with yellow rickrack like our sweet neighbor and- I tend to rely on the freezer to put up tomatoes. I certainly have never become expert at  home canning, but oh! Those summer childhood memories, I’ll always have those! Hurry before the fresh summer tomatoes are gone! Make a pot of Summer Tomato Soup…and remember what I’ve told you before…‘The closer you live to a Tomato Vine, the better your life will be!’

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine. 55D4498E-F209-4343-8AC8-91650A5FED0E

Late Summer’s Verdant Path…

D4E1475A-AC7F-4E3D-90FE-43D32B92985EThe best ways for me to find enjoyment in late summer’s neglected garden, is not in hacking away in disgust or to yank and pull or sweat and swear – though I do admit to a bit of that mingled with my worst complaints…

  • “That’s right let me go out of town and you decide to run wild!’
  • ‘ Choking out your companion plant is as coarse and common as talking religion or politics!’ or…
  • ‘Okay, really? Staging a hostile takeover in this heat? What’s gotten into you?’

Now, as amusing as it is- to talk to our plants this way…it doesn’t work, the damage has already been done! Faced with difficult and mundane jobs like pulling weeds, I enjoy taking a stroll, framing a view, documenting with a few photographs, thinking of my best words, waxing poetic even humming the sweetest melody, in fact- it surprises me that I usually don’t do these things first! But when I do…

I find crisp cool ferns, an unusual view through an errant Mimosa,

13B44B76-0C30-4A74-B0F3-545A80506EFBHydrangeas, this time several on the wane and one amazing fresh green one made even more beautiful in a hazy light.

Views through a garden bench, beauty entwining itself up and around wherever it may find the opportunity…

 

Soft and sweet Lamb’s Ears and an iron bird hiding in rampant rose canes and even Autumn Joy beginning to bloom.

Now, normally I don’t use words like verdant in the course of everyday conversation- but the word did come to mind… ‘Verdant means- Abundant, green vegetation, lush green lawns or rich forestation.’ Weeds or not- that’s what we have!

2CA12AE5-AEE0-4B44-8F90-2D8991616A7EStill.  Verdant was one of the good words… followed by Decent, Fresh, Trustworthy, Wholesome, Bighearted, Devotion, Wholehearted, Loving and Kind.

My good words were followed by Phrases like- Cool and calm, Soft and tender, Milk of Human Kindness, A sweet embrace… Try it! Good words and gentle phrases usually bring forth the Poetic!

‘Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms…So doth the woodbine, the sweet honeysuckle Gently entwined. Oh, how I love thee! How I dote on thee!’ from A Midsummer’s Nights’ Dream-

Or what about these?‘In life’s uncertain voyage, I will some kindness do them.’ Timon of Athens and  ‘Beauty lives with kindness.’ Two Gentlemen of Virona  – and a personal favorite…

‘To me, fair friend, you never can be old.’ Sonnet 14 All by the poet emeritus of good words….Shakespeare

87F1B149-CA3A-4654-81D4-5417384F49D7It was time…The gazing at pictures, the doodling, dawdling and daydreaming had to stop or nothing would get done. I must admit, my greatest gardening challenge became one of my sweetest musings…

390DD5C5-0D91-48EF-9890-C55C5D71AFA1The Angel Vine had become rampant squalling baby – crying out for immediate attention. A pair of water meter readers couldn’t even find the meter since the Angel Vine had completely covered it over… fiercely verdant? Perhaps not a good phrase… I pulled it back to show them where it was…and decided I could amuse myself no longer. I began pulling and outright hacking and cutting…. and then it happened again…Ah yes, a song… a lullaby… okay really I thought of Willie Nelson’s ‘Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground’ about an angel with a broken wing that Willie fell in love with, that was my first thought. Kept in check, Angel Vine is such a sweet planting…tiny brown vines dotted with tiny green leaves. Angel Vine is a native of New Zealand also known as ‘Mattress Vine’ … so yes, as overgrown as it was- eventually a Lullaby came to mind. May I pause here? I’ll admit it- at first a gardening song starts as an annoying hum…I can’t put words to the tune… but when I do? I am amazed at how perfectly it does fit the situation. Angels, mattresses for cradles and little children…came to mind. The neighborhood is quieter now….children have gone back to school when I’m at my gardening chores…. I began thinking of the times I sent my first graders off to school- it never got easier, I always cried and prayed….counting on these beautiful and promising words for children-

 ‘Become as little trusting loving children. Whoever receives and welcomes one little child is greatest in the Kingdom of heaven… and also welcomes Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, whoever entices him or hinders a child’s progress from right thought and conduct… Anyone who causes suffering to a little child- a millstone should be hung around his neck and be thrown in the depths of the sea… Beware that you do not despise or demean one of these little ones… See that you do not offend one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven are always in the presence of and earnestly watch the face of My Father’…’Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me.’ 

Stern warnings concerning treatment of children from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of St. Matthew. So yes, pulling back that Angel Vine I thought of Guardian Angels…prayers for all little children-the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

F81C0824-BDC4-490C-9955-972A1041A154I found myself humming an old Welsh lullaby …Sleep my child let peace attend thee, all through the night.  Guardian Angels will defend thee, all through the night.’

All the while thinking of angels. The pile of trimmings was quite large, I wound the Angel Vine into a verdant wreath and hung it’s delicate form on the Front Door knowing it would stay fresh for only a few short days. My Late Summer’s Verdant Walks, like childhood-   don’t last long, but the memories will be cherished a long while.

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. *The Scripture is from Matthew 18- my interpretation- alongside the Amplified Version of the KJV *Please don’t get any grand ideas that I’m an expert on memorizing Shakespeare! It’s a trick I employ to try to match up my ‘best’ words with poets or quotes from famous folks!  *’All Through the Night- a Welsh lullaby is generally sung around the Christmas holidays- but so beautiful I couldn’t resist. I found no author credited for the song.

Summer Blueberry Scones…

EC69DB75-C9C3-4C5B-B483-0D756B6C3163I made a batch of Summer Blueberry Scones, tender buttery- with a hint of orange and dripping with a sweet glaze.  Easy to make, these scones might make my ‘Summertime and the Living is Easy’ recipe list. We’ve had a bumper crop of blueberries- which frankly surprises me. We’re not really a blueberry growing or even a blueberry eating bunch here.  There’s a beautiful and bountiful blueberry farm just a few miles down the road here- I hope they’ve had a bumper crop too…

A3624DB1-5061-4E0E-AB93-6BFF069DAEF3When I think of iconic Southern fruits- it’s strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupes, apricots, plums, peaches, watermelons and further south- bananas, fresh coconuts and citrus fruits seem to fill the memories of my life.

  • Strawberry Shortcakes, Blackberry  and Peach Cobblers,
  • Cantaloupes in big orange slices perfect for every meal,
  • Watermelons in my uncle’s Ice House,
  • Banana Puddings and Apricot Casseroles were also beloved –
  • Then at Christmas, Cranberries made an appearance and the utterly delicious but simple Ambrosia my grandmother made was full of Oranges and Fresh Coconut.
  • Dried Apricots, Apples and Peaches tended to show up on the breakfast table or in the form of Fried Pies…

I only recall one little girl who loved blueberry syrup on her pancakes and it wasn’t me! When ladies began making those cream cheese ice box pies- they did open up cans of strawberry or blueberry pie filling to spoon over the top. All of that changed when blueberries became something of a sensation for all of the health benefits folks read about. Back then, we were given several blueberry bushes- that frankly never did much good. And my husband came up with a concoction which we still love- that he dubbed Blueberry Surprise which consists of fresh blueberries topped with sour cream and a generous helping of brown sugar- hey! don’t knock it! I’m not sure why it works but it’s also great with mixed berries- like strawberries and blueberries for a quick, cool, easy dessert. And you can’t beat a bowl of mixed berries after a heavy meal.

This year… from two sort of spindly blueberry bushes- we’ve gotten several quarts of blueberries, most are in the freezer. To my surprise, another half pint were picked over the weekend and were used to garnish a coconut cream pie and tossed in a citrus salad, the rest were put up in a small freezer bag.65C51387-D229-4F7B-9BFC-9A93AEEEA22A

I know it’s gonna sound like heresy to some- but I’m not a big fan of blueberry muffins; blueberry pie wouldn’t be my first pick, I do like them on cereal but give me strawberries or bananas any day of the week.  So, what to do with all of the bounty? Ah… I recalled Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama. For decades, we’ve been privileged to stay at this historic southern hotel- which serves a complimentary Afternoon Tea with cookies as big as a lap baby’s face and small scones with a selection of teas- from open mahogany tea chests, along with coffee for those who prefer it to tea. Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel is an easy affair that seems to bring out genteel qualities in even the children who partake. With these memories dancing around in my head, I thought I’d make a batch of Summer Blueberry Scones… it might have been a mistake because I barely got them photographed before I realized I hadn’t exactly been genteel in my consumption of the scones! In fact, I had to put most of them safely out of reach. If you’ve got a cup of fresh blueberries and bit of time… maybe you’ll try – 962C44B8-A3AA-4754-9CA1-ACCB65885348Camellia’s Summer Blueberry Scones

These are easy- so you will need a biscuit baking mix- I prefer Pioneer Baking Mix®; I’ve been to their mill in San Antonio Texas and my family used it regularly- however, any biscuit baking mix will do I’m sure-

  • In a large mixing bowl stir together 3 cups of Biscuit Mix- (no sifting required),
  • 1/3 cup of Sugar and 3/4 stick of very cold Butter cut into small cubes.
  • Just toss or stir gently.
  • Then, very carefully toss 1 cup of frozen blueberries and 3 tablespoons of diced candied orange peel in with the mixture. *If you don’t have this ingredient- the zest of an orange or even a lemon will work just as well.
  • And, don’t worry about cutting in butter- just toss the cubes together to mix. Make a center well, add one large beaten Egg and 3/4 cup of whole milk.
  • Gently work the dough with your hands to just get the mixture moist.
  • Turn half of the mixture out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and work dough into a ball; turn out onto a silicone mat or parchment lined baking sheet. *No buttering the pan- there’s plenty of butter in the dough!
  • Gently now,  pat each dough ball into a 7 or 8 inch round at 3/4 inch thickness.
  • Score the rounds into triangles. No need to even get out a biscuit cutter!E38BE16D-A578-4B70-BB5B-33F4C130B51C
  • *Always remember to use a very light touch with biscuit or scone dough for a light tender result.  I sifted a bit of the baking mix on top of the dough rounds for easier scoring.
  • Put the unbaked scones in the refrigerator to chill.
  • Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees.
  • Put chilled scones in the hot oven for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • If desired, make a simple glaze of 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and up to 1/4 cup of milk, being careful to add half of the milk- stir, then add a bit more until it is the right consistency.
  • Glaze Summer Blueberry Scones while they are still warm. Allow to cool a bit before cutting into triangles-  if you can stand to wait!
  • Makes 16 medium size scones.  Aren’t they pretty?

EC69DB75-C9C3-4C5B-B483-0D756B6C3163Well, I’m ashamed to admit I ate more than one in the afternoon- then called on another one to be my supper! I saved the leftover glaze and put most of the rest in the freezer, to warm up for another Afternoon Tea or breakfast or for unexpected company or…I don’t know, maybe your blood sugar’s running low or you feel a Sinking Spell coming on or when you think you’re just gonna die unless you have a little something to clear your head. Summer Blueberry Scones will feed the hungry, lift sagging spirits, give a hungry child an after school treat or you might need to bring a genteel touch to life!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine.  See what I mean by spindly? 5F27E495-27E6-497D-8D88-E9DD9BCB4E31